London Aquatics Centre: Terrified children and babies had to escape pool during chlorine gas leak

Bathers ran for their lives “coughing” in nothing but their swimwear during the “major incident” at the Olympic Park, Stratford.

Terrified swimmers - including children and babies - had to be helped to escape from the London Aquatics Centre following the toxic chlorine gas leak.

Bathers ran for their lives “coughing” in nothing but their swimwear during the “major incident” at the Olympic Park, Stratford.

Around 200 people were evacuated from the swimming venue and the surrounding area has been cordoned off.

Police, fire and ambulance crews were called the Olympic Park, just before 10am when a noxious substance leaked into the building containing the swimming pool and diving area.

People being treated by paramedics outside the London Aquatics Centre. Credit: SWNS

A mother in a swimsuit and her baby were seen being checked over by paramedics in a nearby cafe.

A man was visiting the centre with his son at the time and recalled the moment they began to notice “a strong sharp smell that takes your breath away”.

The pair said they alerted others as they escaped the building and awaited treatment from several ambulances which had been called to the scene.

The man recalled “around 150 people” waiting outside who had been evacuated from the building.

He recalled: “It was this very sharp smell, it made it difficult to breathe. We could feel it burning in our throats and lungs.”

He told how they rushed outside and several ambulances were there administering medical attention, prioritising those most affected.

He said there were all different kinds of people outside - including a class of schoolchildren who had been in the building.

The pair had their heart rate and blood pressure checked before being given the green-light to leave.

He said: “It felt dangerous – we were distressed by how it affected our breathing. It took your breath away.”

Major incident at the London Aquatic Centre. Photo: Emma Bellot / Twitter

A swimmer who was in the pool at the time, but declined to give his name, said: “We were in the pool when the alarm sounded.

“I knew it wasn’t a drill because the staff were shouting to get out. A sign was also put up for people who couldn’t hear what was being said.

“We quickly got out and went through the changing rooms to run and grab our stuff and thankfully we could, because I don’t know how others are going to get their clothes.

“There was a really strong smell of chlorine in the changing room.

“I feel okay now, but the longer you were in there it got harder to breathe.

“We got out and it was okay. A paramedic came over to us and asked how we were doing, but we were fine - maybe a small headache.”

He added: “It was pretty scary. It’s a warm day so you feel like you should be able to go for a swim.”

The emergency services evacuated London's Olympic Park in Stratford after a "release of noxious fumes" at the Aquatics Centre left people with breathing difficulties. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Alex Brightman, 26, a construction worker, said: “We weren’t really sure what was going on, but saw loads of ambulances go to the swimming pool.

“Loads of people came running out of the centre coughing and spluttering, they were covering their faces to stop breathing in the fumes.

“It looked like they were really struggling to breathe.

“People were encouraging others to get away from the centre as fast as they could. Some people were lying on their backs, and I saw a guy trying to help them up.

“You could smell it in the air, that bleachy smell. It must have been awful inside.

“Paramedics looked like they treated people really quickly and efficiently because I think almost everyone who is inside is now gone.”

A spokesperson for GLL, which operates the London Aquatics Centre, said: “The emergency services were called and some of our customers have required medical treatment due to breathing difficulties.

“We are working to support all those affected.

“We are awaiting guidance from the facilities management company, LLDC and the emergency services on when the Centre will be able to reopen.”

A London Aquatics Centre spokesperson said: “At approximately 10am this morning we took the decision to evacuate the London Aquatics Centre.

“This was due to a release of gas that occurred when the facilities management company that operates the plant room took delivery of pool chemicals.

“We are awaiting guidance from the facilities management company, LLDC and the emergency services on when the Centre will be able to reopen.

“If you had a booking at London Aquatics Centre for today or tomorrow, your booking has been cancelled and your account will automatically be credited. Thank you for your understanding.”